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Full text of "Rapid Population Growth Consequences And Policy Implications"

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and traditional norms appear to play a prominent role in determining the age and extent of marriage, the spacing of births, and the frequency of remarriage. But research has not shed much light on whether institutional changes occur promptly in response to changes in child death rates.*
Fortunately, a behavioral response at the family level is more likely in the shorter run. Parents are directly confronted by the consequences of the improved chances for child survival, and given their limited resources, they are presumably not indifferent to family size. Even though parents retain a relatively large family-size goal based on traditional values and constraints, they are likely to seek to regulate their fertility upon reaching their desired family size; institutional change or foresight on the part of parents is not required. Because childhood mortality is concentrated in the first years of life, still-fertile parents can sequentially decide to make an added effort to have an additional child when they lose one. At a community level this short-run replacement mechanism would become important several decades after the onset of the decline in child death rates when a substantial proportion of the fertile women in the population already have the number of surviving children they wanted and are seeking with some degree of success to avert further births.t
Parents may desire a certain number (and sex distribution) of surviving children, but they undoubtedly realize that they cannot assure the precise outcome they want. Rather, their actions influence only the range and probability of possible outcomes. This recognition of uncertainty in the family formation process may induce parents to aim for more or fewer children (births) than they would desire under a predictable (certain) regime of deaths and births. Where parents emphasize having at least a minimum number of children survive and do not regard additional children as a large liability, hedging uncertainty will tend to raise their birth rate. Since the level of child death rates affects the degree of uncertainty attaching to the family formation process, both the direct effect of the postwar decline in death rates and the indirect effect operating through uncertainty will, under such circumstances, tend to reduce the number of births parents seek. The decline in child death rates could, therefore, be responsible for an overcompensating fall in birth rates, leaving the surviving family smaller than before the demographic transition. In sum, the reduction in child mortality, while raising the
*Heer at Harvard is investigating how these changes in mortality are actually perceived and translated into behavior in several diverse settings in low income countries.
'Although the death of a child may motivate its mother to seek additional offspring, the effect on her reproductive behavior is difficult to distinguish in the shaft run if she is young, for her age cohort will probably continue having additional children for some time at about the maximal rate regardless of the incidence of child mortality. If on the other hand, the mother is older, say in her late 30's, and a sizeable proportion of her cohort intends to avoid further births, her behavioral response to the child's death will distinguish her sharnlv frnm nfhnrs in hp.r r.nhnrt within n rolativftlv short timp. (3Y